A Grace Parable

John was a university student: brainy, eccentric, unkempt, and solitary.  Unaware that his personality was a put off to those around him, John was a bit of a character on the campus.  Everyone knew him, chuckled a bit at the mention of him, but when it came to competing for the grade, they all respected or even feared him.

Near John's campus was a well-respected church with a long history in the community.  A decade before John came to school, the church had incorporated the name of the university into it's name in an effort to launch a ministry to the students there.  However, the church remained mostly effective in ministering to established, wealthier, conservative, people.  Sundays were characterized by people dressed in their best attire and following a well-known, yet unspoken code of Sunday behavior.

One Sunday John decided to turn his attention away from academic pursuits and examine the condition of his own soul by attending church.  He walked into the church late, after the pastor had already begun to preach.  He wore his personal uniform of grungy jeans, a holey white T-shirt, and sockless Birkenstock sandals. When he arrived, the sanctuary was full to capacity with people in suit and skirt.  He tried to find a seat near the back to begin his spiritual search in anonymity, but none could be found.  Unwittingly finding himself in the center aisle, he slowly continued forward looking for the first available seat.

Eventually, John commanded more and more attention from the congregants and the environment of the room became uncomfortable as this obvious outsider upset the delicate balance of the church's culture by his mere presence.  John continued forward looking for a seat and stealing more attention from the minister.  Eventually the minister himself struggled to continue with his sermon as he wondered what would transpire next. 

John did not find an available seat in the rows of pews and finally gave up.  So, John picked up his head and turned his attention to a seat that no one expected.  John walked up to the pulpit and sat down about four feet away, cross-legged on the ground.  

The congregation could feel the oxygen in the room become suddenly thick and their padded seats become increasingly uncomfortable.  And then a church deacon from the back of the room began to make his way forward, up the same aisle that just moments before had ushered John to the very front.  After all, something had to be done.  Everyone knew it and everyone knew what IT was.  

The deacon, along in age, moved slowly toward John and his keys jingled in his pocket in cadence with his slight limp.  With every jingle a new tension was born in the room ans the congregation looked on in expectation of IT.  The situation would soon be dealt with and soon all would feel relieved.

The minister saw what was about to transpire and struggled to keep to his notes, eventually giving way to the silence that had already enshrouded the rest of the room.

When the deacon got to the front of the room, he painfully climbed the steps to the stage, laboring with each climbing step.  Then finally reaching John, he reached over and put his hand on John's shoulder and using the stability he gained, lowed himself to a seated position next to John, took off his coat and tie, and motioned to the pastor to continue.

The minister looked up at the members of his flock.  He wept.  And eventually gaining his composure said, "Nothing I could say to you would measure up to the sermon on grace that you have just witnessed. " And with that he dismissed them all and took John to lunch.
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10)

(This is a well known story and the telling above is my version.  I first heard it in college and heard it recently re-told by Rick McCullough.)


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